Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: The Crimes of Paris: A True Story of Murder, Theft, and Detection
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VINE VOICEon April 10, 2009
The Crimes of Paris is a book about just that: the crimes that took place in and around Paris from about 1880 to the beginning of World War I. The book's "hook" is the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911, but the bulk of the book deals with famous murders, murderers, detectives, and gangs of fin de sicle France. The 19th century was an era in which France, beset by numerous revolutions, changed drastically, and the urban landscape with it. The way that people interacted with each other changed, too, hence the number, and variety, of crimes that were carried out. Changes in technology and scientific thinking enabled detectives and the police to solve crimes that had previous remained unexplained.

If you come to this book expecting it to be solely about the theft of the Mona Lisa, you'll be disappointed (watch out: the story of the theft itself is sort of a doozy). One of the crime's suspects, briefly, was Picasso. You wonder why he was considered a suspect in the first place; he had no motive for stealing the painting, nor was he anywhere near the scene of the crime at the time it happened.

The book's strength lies in its descriptions of other famous (and not so famous) crimes). The reader is introduced to a host of historical figures: Vidocq, France's first real detective; Bertillon, who developed the science of anthropometry; the Bonnot gang, anarchists who were the first to escape the scenes of their crimes via car; Meg Steinheil, who murdered her husband in cold blood; and many more. As I've said, the "hook" of the book is the theft of the Mona Lisa, in reality unconnected to the other crimes related in this book. It would have been better had the book been described as it really was. Also, the authors make flimsy, superfluous connections between the theft and the murders. But other than that, I mostly enjoyed my trip to turn-of-the-century Paris. The book is accompanied by 14 pages of black and white reproduction photographs.
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on May 2, 2009
What starts out as the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre Museum in Paris progresses as a fascinating series of "portraits" and little know facts about the criminals and crimes of Paris in the post Haussmann city.

The writing is first-rate and one is carried along on a roller coaster of famous and infamous characters indirectly and directly involved with the theft of the famous painting and the crime raging Paris in the nineteeth century.

Particularly interesting are the portions which tell about public executions before the guillotine was retired for good. The "portraits" of the various characters are beautifully defined and they seem to come off the page with vivid imagery. At times it has the atmosphere of "Film Noir" and this is interesting as what we know as "Film Noir" had not yet been invented.

It is hard to put this book down. Each chapter tantalized and mesmerizes with a Paris none now could have known but is every much a part of how it evolved as a city of great fascination for generations of visitors.

I was impressed by the author's lack of the use of hyperbole and gushiness which is so often a disappointing feature of this kind of book.
One if left with many images and thoughts about Paris and Parisians not usually of the travel book variety. A absolutely wonderfully put together "real life" story with "real life" people. So many times I thought of Inspecter Maigret and Georges Simenon. First rate!
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on February 17, 2013
An insightful review of Parisian culture around the turn of the century and the development of methods of criminal investigation and identification. I especially appreciated the comments about how the French tended to side with the perps, rather than the Surete--explains a lot! Well researched, much appreciated. My blog post about this book is at [...]
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on August 27, 2014
I benefited from reading this book.

I found 'The Crimes of Paris' to be solidly written, with an objective, factual narrative that brought the facts across without slant. Additionally, I found the book to be an informative historical and sociological study on turn-of-the-century Paris, and France in general. After all, much can be learned from examining the crimes of a society (and said society's reaction to said crimes).

Thanks to the authors, the publishers, and the book's subjects.
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on October 18, 2015
Cobbled together from a lot of other sources...nonetheless, it is a great page turner and covers early forensics, early Picasso, Mona Lisa theft, anarchists and much more. Great details about life in Montmarte pre WW1.
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VINE VOICEon April 13, 2011
In addition to the theft of the Mona Lisa this book describes several other sensational crimes of the late 19th and early 20th century in Paris. This is an enjoyable book and the reader will be introduced to a number of memorable characters and/or villains.
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on February 12, 2014
I love books allowing me to travel back in time. Add detective stories, art and Paris and I’m swooning. The Crimes of Paris is about the crimes that took place in Paris from the late 1800′s to the beginning of World War I. An intriguing tale of the darker side of a city, hums with a cast of characters, from artists, anarchists and aristocrats to street thieves and the foremost crime detection pioneers. The theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911 initially draws you in, but the remaining part of the book deals with several murders, detectives and street gangs. Along with the several French revolutions during the 19th century, came changes to its urban landscape. Changes in technology and scientific thinking enabled the police to solve crimes that had previous remained unsolved.

The book’s strength lies in its descriptions of other famous and not so famous crimes. We’re introduced to a host of historical figures: Vidocq, France’s first real detective; Bertillon, who developed the science of anthropometry; Picasso, who was accused of stealing the Mona Lisa, (although he wasn’t anywhere near the scene of the crime); the Bonnot gang, anarchists who were the first to escape the scenes of their crimes via car and more.
A minor negative of the book is the vaguely linked connections between the Mona Lisa theft and the other described crimes.
The book is so mesmerizing that I read it in three evenings. I couldn’t sleep until I finished it. Hopefully, it will have the same effect on you.

Fun Fact: In 2001, Tom Hoobler (who co-authored the book with his wife) appeared on the TV show, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" and with help from his wife (who was his phone-a-friend) he won $500,000. The Hooblers used part of the money to spend a month traveling in Italy and decided to use the rest to try to write a book for adults.
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on August 6, 2013
Nonfiction that reads like a novel. I was amazed by some of what I learned in this book, and had never known before--about the theft of the Mona Lisa and the backdrop of what was happening in Paris at that time. Toward the late-middle, the book went down a couple tangents that felt a bit long to me, but overall I highly recommend it and was glad I picked it up.
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on May 22, 2009
Not only a story about the crimes of Paris in the early 20th century but a fascinating look at the arts, culture, and science of the time and place. Interweaving sections on detective fiction, criminal investigations, artistic developments, and other topics, the authors manage to tell an engaging and suspenseful story that reads like a detective novel itself. The background story, which develops throughout the book, describes the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911. This is really a wonderful, seamless, suspenseful book that will keep your reading well past your bedtime.
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on September 17, 2010
I picked this book out randomly and it was a fascinating read. At first, I thought it would be about the theft of the Mona Lisa, instead it was a contextual history of the Belle Epoque era of Paris. It connected the dots among crime, forensics, photography, the automobile, politics, scandal sheets, art, science and technology. Highly recommended.
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